Amadeus has joined the “Ban Facebook” initiative for a variety of reasons. It appears the social media data monetizers are unable or unwilling to develop and deploy systems that filter content appropriately and without bias. The most glaring example was the announcement in November 2018 that Facebook was used to discuss the auctioning off of a 16-year-old daughter as a child bride. CNN wrote that according to the children's rights organization Plan International, the girl was bid on by five men, some of whom were reportedly high-ranking South Sudanese government officials. Activists were concerned that this auction -- for which the father reportedly received 500 cows, three cars and $10,000 in exchange for his daughter -- could inspire other families to use social media sites to receive larger payments. Plan International's country director in South Sudan, George Otim, said: "That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world's biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief." Apparently the family had no intention of posting to Facebook, but the dowry amount pledged for her was higher than usual and generated a lot of discussion among Facebook members. "In South Sudan, Facebook and social media is a brand new thing. Someone just took a picture. And it just went viral," he added. The posts discussed the price being offered for the girl by the highest bidder, as well as how much Facebook users would offer for her. Facebook told Business Insider that it found the post on November 9, more than two weeks after it was first posted and only then permanently removed it.
Social media is highly addictive. Studies show that approximately 70% of all Americans log into Facebook daily. Almost 50% login multiple times per day. People receive likes and shares for things they post. From a behavioral standpoint, these are positive reinforcements. All living creatures seek positive reinforcements and they can be addictive. Dr. Cecilie Andraessen at the University of Bergen, Norway and her colleagues have classified the overuse of Facebook as an addiction, creating an instrument called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale to quantify what constitutes Facebook Addiction.
Social media leads to unrealistic and contrived comparisons to others with regard to looks, possessions, relationships, and belief systems. For young people, particularly adolescents, social media is a way to develop their identity, embellish their looks and accomplishments, declare their relationship status or lack thereof, and let everyone know what they just had for lunch. For the older crowd, social media is a way to feel superior to others because of their religious or political beliefs. Adults will argue about two conversational taboos that they would never argue about face to face, religion and politics, pontificating about their private and personal beliefs to friends that disagree in a way that would be insulting and obnoxious if done in real time.
Social media creates a false perception of making a difference. People can be lulled into a false sense that they are promoting social justice by trying to convince those with different beliefs to change their ideals in causes they support. Liberals versus conservatives, Republicans versus Democrats, Hillary versus the Donald, etc. all of this cyber posing and posturing can make one feel like Gandhi, Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King, all at the click of a button. However, nothing changes in real time. To our knowledge, there are no instances ever of anyone changing a belief they already held because of a Facebook argument.
Social media and the Internet have created a Cult of Celebrity, where the opinions of actors, athletes, musicians, and pop cultural icons are held in higher esteem than those of politicians, scientists, spiritual leaders, and intellectuals. If Springsteen or Kanye say so, it simply has to be true. This Celebrity Cult can be dangerous if the culture looks to celebrities for guidance in realms that are out of their areas of expertise. We have recently elected a celebrity as president of the United States and there is a growing groundswell of support for other celebrities to run in 2020.
While social media can be a great way to stay in touch with extended family and old friends that one has lost touch with, it has distorted the meaning of community. While online communities can be highly beneficial, they’ll never replace real communities where people meet face-to-face, in real time, and share their human experiences. Ideally, people should have both.
Social media has distorted our sense of privacy and interpersonal boundaries. People will vent about a relationship that they had just ended, some personal problem they may have just gone through, or how much they hate their job. Existential angst gets dispersed into cyberspace and, once it’s there, it’s hard to get back. Some people use social media in the same way that previous generations used a journal or a personal diary. Today it’s very fashionable to put all your deepest and most private thoughts on your Facebook page, perhaps not such a great idea.
The Internet and social media have replaced books, pens, paper, and libraries. While this, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad, it can lead to faulty research. Many people latch on to the first article that pops up in a Google search and unquestionably believe it to be true.
Like most things in life, the answer is balance. Use technology wisely, as overindulgence can lead to misinformation, impaired relationships, loss of privacy, and a host of physical and emotional disturbances. On top of increased rates of anxiety and depression, spending too much time on social media can lead to poor sleep. Numerous studies have shown that increased use of social media has a negative effect on the quality of sleep.
While social media facilitates making friends, it also made it easier for predators to find victims. The anonymity that social networks provide can be used by the perpetrators to gain people’s trust and then terrorize them in front of their peers. These online attacks often leave deep mental scars and even drive people to suicide in some cases. You’ll be surprised to find out that cyberbullying isn’t just affecting kids, but adults as well.
Carl Sagan commented “The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 10 second sound bites, lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”. Amadeus believes Facebook contributes to this dumbing of America and has joined the “Ban Facebook” initiative as a consequence.